UCR INTERVIEW: Paul Curatolo (Paul McCartney) of RAIN- A Tribute to The Beatles

RAIN – A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES will bring the greatest hits to life, from Ed Sullivan all the way to Abbey Road. This mind-blowing performance takes you back in time with the legendary foursome delivering a note-for-note theatrical event that’s as infectious as it is transporting. Let RAIN take you back with all of your Beatles favorites such as “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Hard Day’s Night,” “Sgt. Pepper,” “Come Together,” “Hey Jude” and more! Experience the worlds’ most iconic band and get back to where you once belonged with RAIN – A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES.”

RAIN will be performing a 90-minute Best of the Beatles for three shows at the Maverik Center on April 9th & 10th. The first rock shows at Maverik in over a year! These shows will take place at 8 pm on the 9th and 3 pm and 8 pm on the 10th. The Maverik Center has taken enhanced health and safety measures including limited capacity seating for plenty of distance, face-covering requirements, hand sanitizing stations, and cleaning protocols before and after each performance. Click here for tickets.

I had the opportunity to chat with Paul Curatola, who performs as Paul McCartney in RAIN- A Tribute to the Beatles. We discuss what he’s been up to during the coronavirus pandemic, how he came to be a part of RAIN, what to expect from the Maverik Center shows and much more! Enjoy!

UCR: I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

Paul Curatolo:  My pleasure. I got nothing but time.

UCR:  Before we get into RAIN, and the Beatles and all of that I am really interested in you and just your life as a performer and as an artist on your own. So, how did you first of all just get started in music in general?

Paul Curatolo:  Well, thank you for the interest. I appreciate it. I was born into the whole RAIN family where my father is the musical director of the group and was the original McCartney surrogate to the band. He started out of New York with the Beatles show, Beatlemania that started on Broadway. So, this has always been a part of my life, whether I was in the wings, or on stage, no pun intended. But my father started me out on Christmas, my 10th year with a set of drums and that’s how I started my musical journey on the drums.

UCR:  That’s awesome. Was it known that eventually, you’d be handed the reins here, or did you think that you were going to do your own musical thing? 

Paul Curatolo: Yeah, you know how it is to be a teenager and when you’re an independent thinker. 

UCR: You think “I am not going to do what my dad does. I’m going to do my own thing!” 

Paul Curatolo: Right. I was so on my own path, I played with pop-rock groups and pop-punk bands and I had a different look. I looked more like your Fallout Boy and Blink 182 types, then. So, it wasn’t until about young adulthood that I really started to gravitate to the Beatles music as a musician, rather than just as a pure fan. I learned everything that Ringo had done on the drums, he taught me how to play but, I’d never started to really take serious looks into Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney until my early 20s and my whole musician brain just exploded. I became more obsessed than my dad, with their music.

UCR: I think we’ve all in our own way had that journey and you’re so interesting because it’s a journey that leads to performing their songs. So, that’s so cool that you have that outlet now that you’ve studied from the Bible of The Beatles.  

So, you’re doing your own thing. You’re in the pop-rock, punk genre and then the time comes, where is it like, “Hey, there’s this opportunity to join in”. Is that how it went down? Or is it more like, “I actually really want to do this.?” How do you get to become part of RAIN? Obviously, you said, you were in the wings. How did you get to the stage? 

Paul Curatolo: I was simply asked by my father. Maybe it was more of maybe parental wisdom or intuition. He saw that I was at a certain age and it just floated the inquiry out there and from there, we went into the studio and broke out some of the Beatle instruments and he said, just for giggles, let’s try this and try playing back to me when I play to you and I gravitated to it.

So, he said, “If you’re interested in this, let me know.” But it’s like an army recruit where there’s no half in half out, you make this decision. We go all in and I put you through Beatle boot camp and he did and I’m really thankful because it changed me as a musician, as a writer, as a producer, everything. Just knowing the basics of music, which are Beatles, is just like the blueprint for modern music.

UCR:  I just find it so fascinating, because, on one hand, you’re performing these great, great songs. On the other hand, maybe it’s kind of weird, because, in a strange way, you’re a little bit anonymous, because you’re playing somebody iconic and legendary. How do you balance because I guess when people are watching, they want to see Paul up there, not you, Paul Curatola, but Paul McCartney. But for yourself, there needs to be some merit to it for you just as an artist. How do you balance that to keep the audience happy, but keeping yourself energized to do the role?

Paul Curatolo: Well, the beauty of it is, I could speak for the rest of my band as well, when I say that, we are the fans, we’re exactly like the audience. We’re just a very privileged fan because we get to use the instruments and dress like them and feel like them for a moment. But all we are is really a super fan. So, that in of itself is that validation, being up there every night. Being able to play the greatest music ever written every night and share that excitement with the people in the audience. What we’re doing is sharing the excitement of these iconic moments throughout the night. So, that’s all what it really means. That’s what’s most important.

UCR: That’s an awesome way to look at it.  I saw you guys here in Salt Lake City. I’m going to say in 2019 at the Eccles Theatre.

Paul Curatolo:  Yeah. What a great theatre.

UCR:  It’s a beautiful theatre and you guys were awesome in it. The crowd absolutely loved you guys, which is to be expected. But the thing that’s the most impressive for me is, because as I’m sure you know, there are a million tribute bands out there for the Beatles but there’s something about you guys, whether there’s the authenticity of just getting it right and looking right. But I want to ask you because you guys are really what I consider the premier Beatles tribute band.

I’ve seen other tribute bands, and they’ll be at state fairs or city parks, some of them have some really good success. But there’s just something about you guys that just made more than just a tribute band. It was like you’re almost there at that moment in time, seeing the Beatles.  I’m sure that’s what you’re trying to do. So, how do you make that happen? What makes you guys stand out, above the rest?

Paul Curatolo: Well, I could say, a good analogy that I’ve heard, that I’ve adapted in terms of the music, we look at it like a Philharmonic or Bach. It’s not an interpretation of Bach’s music, it is Bach’s music. When you’re calling yourself a tribute, the authenticity of the music itself is paramount. From there down, when you get the music, when the music clicks with you and your band and when everyone feels that moment, the character just comes along with it. I think we’re all very fortunate that we gravitate to our Beatle. It took a lot of study and stuff like that. We live, eat and breathe it, but at a certain point, the music is what drives the motion. Along with the multimedia, the lighting, the flow of the show, everything. It’s the perfect storm. 

UCR: I totally agree with you, because I think the production quality makes the difference. And of course how much you sound like them as a band. But the thing that came to mind with me is Batman. (Paul looks at me quizzically) Now hear me out. When you see a Batman movie, it’s almost not that hard to play Batman, but the real nuance is playing Bruce Wayne.

So, to bring it back to you guys, you can sing the songs, you can sound like them, you could shake the hair, but when you talk in between and interact with each other if it feels like how the Beatles did it, that’s where you’re like, “Oh, okay, this really feels like the real thing.” I think that’s part of what you guys do. That extra ingredient that makes it above the rest. I don’t know if you feel that way or not, but that’s just what I’ve noticed in the couple times I’ve seen RAIN.

Paul Curatolo: I’m keeping that analogy because I’m a Batman buff since I could stand.

UCR: And that’s what makes or breaks those movies. If the guy plays Bruce Wayne in a cool way.

Paul Curatolo: Yeah, you can put on the mask and be the iconic Batman from the comic books, but to be like a Christian Bale to become Bruce Wayne, that’s who, Batman is. That’s cool. That’s a great way to put it. So, yeah, that’s the way we approach everything that we do is through the Looking Glass of the Beatle. We know when we’re up there, we’re not the Beatles and we’re portraying their likeness and their character and it’s easy to get carried away and become a caricature. So, the saying that I love from Sir McCartney is “Less is more.” There’s just a natural charm to Paul McCartney, there’s a twinkle in his eye, there’s just happiness for being able to do this for a living. Paul McCartney was just happy to be there. Most of the Beatles were just happy and excited to be there.

So, for us, it’s that same feeling, especially the fact that the four, five of us, including the keyboard player, we do everything as a group and as a family.  When we’re on the road, we stay on the bus, we have our bus together, we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, we have after movie nights, all that kind of stuff. So, we get on like a band of brothers as well. So, that translates on stage, we can almost communicate with each other without having to say a word, because we know each other so well, and we love what we do together collectively.

UCR: That’s great and that makes a difference too. With any band, sometimes you hear that there’s infighting, and then you see them on stage and they sound awesome. But you can see these guys are having a rough week and there’s something going on.

Paul Curatolo: We’re really proud of the fact that this band really means it. Just like the original cast of RAIN. My father hails from it. It’s like we have a cloning machine.

UCR: It is a real legacy group. I think that’s really cool, it keeps true to the story of your band. So, that’s really cool that you’re the next generation.

Paul Curatolo: Right, thank you.  And the Beatles deserve nothing less. You know what I mean? If we were going to just start a new group, it has to be as good if not better than the original tribute group. So, we constantly strive. I do some things where my dad puts his ears up and goes; “I didn’t think of that. That’s a cool move.” We work back and forth. So, the beauty of him stepping up to musical directors is that he now can look at the whole show, rather than having to focus on just his character to the surrogate.

UCR: So, you mentioned, you’re not the Beatles and that’s probably good that you recognize that. That being said, you’re looking out into that audience and people are looking at you with those eyes as if they’re looking at the Beatles. What is that like? They love the songs. You’re singing the songs, you sound good, so, they’re liking it, because again, I’ve seen some bands where I’m like, I love the song, but this is not the best I’ve ever heard. So, you must have seen these faces where they’re taken to that place. Some of these people have actually seen the Beatles back in the 60s, or their solo tours or whatever. But now they’re looking at you with those same eyes. What is that experience like for you?

Paul Curatolo: That’s worth the price of admission, isn’t it? That’s what the whole goal is, even for a split second.  Just give you that, whether it be reminiscence or if you’re my age and younger, that feeling of what if factor. That’s the whole idea beyond the music, just the music of the lights and the glamour of the production is to give you, even if it’s for a split second, that giddy feeling of wow, it’s almost as if they’re right there. I love looking out into the audience.

Because I’m just as excited to see them. As I’m sure the Beatles were just as excited to see all the screaming girls as the girls were to see them because it’s electric to get so many people in a room, vibrating in the same frequencies together, and just elevating joy in one room. It’s magical. So, I get to use the greatest music of all time to connect with hundreds of 1000s of people.

UCR: I’m going to apologize. I’m going to ask you a couple of questions that I’m sure you’ve been asked a million. But you have such a unique situation where I believe you play the instruments left-handed. Did you have to learn that or is that how you played? 

Paul Curatolo: I’m right-handed.

UCR: So, you had to switch it all?

Paul Curatolo: Yeah, it’s like being a switch hitter. So, mainly, I could say, from a technical point started with the left hand itself. So, start retraining your brain into the phone with your left hand, open the door with your left hand, and start using the mouse with your left hand, that kind of stuff. Then you bring the bass into it. It took me about six weeks before it started to click and after seven years of doing it on stage, it’s almost when it comes to recording, I have the lefty Hoffner right there, and sometimes I’ll just grab that to get a take because I need that the sound of that base, and doesn’t matter whether it’s right or left, because I’ve grown so accustomed.

UCR: I think that’s great because it really does matter. Because again, I’ve seen tribute bands, and the guy just can’t do it lefty and it definitely takes away visually. As everybody knows and when Paul and George sang into the same mic, the bass and guitar necks were going in the opposite direction. That’s part of the aesthetic. 

Paul Curatolo: Yeah, that has become the industry standard. I have a lot of McCarty’s who preceded me have taken that leap of faith to turn over. So, it lit the fire under my bum to get with it or you’ll constantly be scrutinized. So, I’m glad I made a decision with myself though that I try to play lefty but I wouldn’t do it if it sacrificed the music. I am lucky that I could still play musically. If I couldn’t do that, then it wouldn’t have been worth it.

UCR: Right! Well, that’s a tribute to you, and having the dedication to learn that.  I can play a little guitar and I’m not very good.  I definitely cannot switch it up. So, hats off to you, for doing it.

Paul Curatolo: Don’t doubt yourself so soon. I didn’t think so either. It’s a matter of breaking your own thought process. We have both these hands. They just get redirected to do a different task.

UCR:  Well, maybe I’ll give it a shot! Then my other question is that you’ve probably been asked a million times. Maybe this is one for your father since it’s this has gone on for so long. Did your dad ever get word from the Beatles or their people that they’ve liked what you did? Or that they’re ok with it? It’s a really tricky thing to do. 

Paul Curatolo: We know that they know who we are. And if they are out there, reading this we want them to know that we love them and respect them to the highest degree. We just want them to know that we offer them the deepest thank you for their music and everything that they’ve given generations of people. They know who we are. We haven’t had direct contact with Beatles. But it’s kind of a wink and a nod here and there. We can’t go into too much detail. But that’s what we know.

UCR: Good. And I suppose I can see them having a hard time with it because they might hold it so close to themselves that they can’t see other people playing them. But hopefully, and there are a lot of songs you play or eras you perform as they never did. So, we actually get to see you or the Beatles from that time. I wasn’t alive when they were a band, but people never got to see them perform because they didn’t really tour much at the latter part of their career and you guys get to do those songs for us, which is so great. So, hopefully, they see that as not only a cool tribute. But it’s just an opportunity for people to see that.

Paul Curatolo:  Right, and at the end of all of it, not that they need any help but we keep the music alive. I see four generations of Beatle fans in every audience sitting together, from the grandparents to the little kid wearing the Beatles shirt.  And the kids know it better than the parents who were at the Beatles shows. But like they say, if you remember the 60s, you probably went there.

UCR:  Exactly! It’s been a weird year. Judging by the facial hair you haven’t performed as Paul McCartney in a while. Are these going to be your first shows here in Utah or do you have some leading up to it?

Paul Curatolo:  These will be the first! We’re so excited! What an opportunity to be able to play throughout this and I feel a lot of the audience members, what an opportunity to get out and feel a bit of normalcy amidst this turbulent couple of years. So, it’s extremely exciting. I don’t know what to do with myself right now, do I practice? Do I check my suits? Do I just sit and wait? I’m just giddy.

UCR What have you been able to do in these last months?

Paul Curatola:  Well, luckily, for us, especially as musicians, with modern technology, you have recording techniques, we have this Zoom ability, there’s a platform called stageIt where we can perform live for our listeners that want to log in, but I’ve spent most of the year actually producing music here out of my home studio. So, for a musician, we’re never bored with music. I definitely miss the avenue of live performance, but I’ve been able to channel most of my musical energy into my Apple products.

UCR:  That’s good, thank goodness for Garage Band and Zoom and live stream. It made us able to do something while we’re all home. But yeah, you’re doing three shows on April 9 and 10th here in Utah, at the Maverick Center. It’s a big venue. So it will be nice and socially spaced out. I think it’s going to be a really safe and a fun place to perform. So, you’ll really like that.

Paul Curatolo: Good, as long as everybody’s comfortable there and having a good time, almost worry free. I know the might loom, in everyone’s mind, especially since this is almost just over a year of this, but with the right precautions taken, people can let loose, have that drink, dance, and sing to their favorite songs and just share in the joy of social interaction again.

UCR: So, yeah, there are of course fans of The Beatles, people are coming to see you as The Beatles, RAIN as The Beatles. But there are RAIN fans. You have your fans. What is it like for you to have your own people following you because like I said, I saw you guys at the Eccles Theater and I recall thinking “Oh, they have their own fan base”. People know who these people are beyond the role they’re playing. So, what is that like for you to be playing as somebody but you have people who know exactly who you are?

Paul Curatolo: It’s special. It’s great. They appreciate what we do, not who we portray, necessarily, but what we’ve done. We are the earliest, we precede just about every tribute group in the world, and we’re the longest running. So, we’ve had most of these fans, these are grassroots fans, we’ve had these fans from the beginning. They’ve become a fan of mine after my father’s in the original cast. So, it’s great to share that with them. They map out sometimes where we go and stuff like that. So, being asked beyond Beatle questions is like you said, a person is great within it. There’s a guy in that wig.

UCR: Last question. I know in the past you guys have done tributes to albums. But this is an across the board, career-spanning show if I understand.

Paul Curatolo: Correct.  We’ve comprised a best-of set. Most of the time when we’re playing in theatre situations and on a tour circuit, we like to celebrate an anniversary of a full record or put the focus on certain eras.  But for these three shows, we just want to get out there and enjoy Beatles One. Just the best of a fun show. All of us together, audience and band dipping our toes in the water again. So, we comprised a great, fun hit list to just enjoy ourselves.

Don’t miss RAIN – A Tribute to the Beatles, live in West Valley City and socially distanced at the Maverik Center, Friday, April 9th at 8PM and Saturday, April 19th at 3PM and 8PM. Tickets start at $29 and are on sale to the public Friday, February 12th at 10am.

For tickets go to axs.com

When Paul isn’t playing Paul, he’s also done some songwriting and producing. He’s been collaborating with his sister Terese Curatolo. Her new single “Braille” will be released on April 16th. Check out Terese’s music on Spotify or wherever you stream or purchase music.

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